The Last Word: Breaking the Male Stigma

By Dr Preema Vig / 20 May 2020

Dr Preema Vig explores the concerns men have around having facial aesthetic treatments and presents her views on how it can be improved

Male patients make up a dedicated, and potentially growing, percentage of an aesthetic practice database. However, despite the established, and ongoing growth in the number of male patients undertaking facial aesthetic treatments such as dermal fillers or botulinum toxin,1,2 some men feel there is still a social stigma attached to having non-surgical facial cosmetic procedures and either do not agree with them or feel the need to hide having such treatments. So, where does this stigma come from? What issues might this present to us practitioners, and is there anything that can be done about it?

Facing the stigma

Although I do agree that men are becoming more in-tune with aesthetic procedures, in my experience, many are still not comfortable with vocalising that they have had treatment or think it’s unacceptable for men to have treatment. This could be due to the perception that men who seek and undergo treatments are labelled as vain, weak or insecure, or perhaps they believe it goes against the grain of ‘being a grown-up’ and ‘manly’ and that it’s only a feminine domain. 

Due to media reports of botched or over-done procedures, men may also believe that only unnatural and fake results are achieved, or they may think they will be judged by their family, friends and peers for some or all of the above reasons. It’s no surprise that the social stigma greatly changes among generations, peer groups and their exposure and interaction with the media and social media. 

Celebrity facialist Gavin McLeod-Valentine, director of studio services at skincare company Intraceuticals, told me that he finds that compared to millennial men, older men of the baby boomer generation are far less likely to partake in aesthetic treatments, including hair loss therapy, due to social media influences.

Menswear and grooming blogger Lucas Armitage highlighted that one reason men may have issues with cosmetic treatments are that men’s peer groups are not always as open in discussing emotional issues, such as unhappiness with one’s appearance. He notes, “I think there is a stigma for men, more so than women, and there is a certain level of banter a man would endure in admitting treatments.” 

So, what does this stigma mean for you as an aesthetic practitioner? In my opinion, it not only prevents male patients from openly talking about skin concerns and seeking non-surgical solutions, but also prevents the opportunity to openly research and discuss treatment options with friends, family and peers, and can even hinder identifying specialist practitioners to make an informed choice when selecting a non-surgical treatment. In addition, it also may impact a wider patient base as it likely that this stigma may be driving existing patients to hide, and feel that their aesthetic practitioner visits are a ‘guilty secret’, while at the same time preventing others such as a friend or a female partner, exploring the possibilities of treatment for themselves.

Breaking the stigma

I think if we as a collective industry can make improvements, we can potentially not only gain more patients, but also create a more respected and accepted specialty. First and foremost, I believe it falls upon the practitioner to educate their patients, both male and female, to dispel misinformation and myths surrounding facial aesthetic treatments, emphasising that there is a proven link between healthy positive body image and mental health.3 

These conversations can start in your own practice through appropriate consultations, acceptable patient suitability and correct, natural enhancements for not only male patients, but females too. This, I think, will help dispel some of the fears regarding bad or disfiguring aesthetic work.

I agree with McLeod-Valentine when he highlighted that if we can get men to start talking about their insecurities and perhaps the treatments they have or are thinking about having, it will have a positive impact on all. To help facilitate this, I think practitioners should consider collaborating with a relevant or compatible and established third party brand to co-host a male educational/demo event (preferably in real life but a virtual event could also be an option) to bring the topic of non-surgical aesthetic solutions into the open. Additional ideas to consider include producing a tailored leaflet or brochure designed with a male patient in mind, which brings up common skin and aesthetic concerns and the solutions available for them. 

This can be developed further into video or visual digital assets to utilise across social media platforms or websites. Improvements can also take place through practice marketing, which digital consultant Alex Bugg explores in more detail in this article; tailoring on and offline marketing material in a tone and language that is male-specific can also engage and encourage a conversation with a potential male patient. 

Asking your male patients if they can act as case studies to showcase your exceptional results can go a long way to making others feel comfortable in getting treatments as well as understanding that natural results can be achieved. In addition, I believe the ambiance and ‘look/feel’ of your clinic, as well as the journey patients take during their time with you, can greatly contribute to their overall experience and lasting impression of your practice. 

Dr Preema London clinic has a gender neutral colour scheme in the treatment rooms and our new clinic space has a dedicated ‘Men’s Room’, which has been designed to have a real male feel with different colours and textures to have an urban ‘gentleman’s club’ look.

Summary

The opposition many men have when it comes to facial aesthetic treatments may prevent them from presenting to your clinic. It may even be having an impact on your current patient base. It is worth bearing in mind that the objective is not to encourage an unhealthy dependence on non-surgical treatments, but making visits to an aesthetic practice acceptable to men. This, in turn, can open the door to healthy open conversations about the ageing concerns men have and the treatments available to address them.

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